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Students build window boxes for historic Lackawanna library (Buffalo News)

by Jay Tokasz
Sun, Jun 2nd 2013 12:00 am


Its classic red-brick design features a grand center entrance flanked by two sets of large, arched windows.

The Lackawanna Public Library, built on Ridge Road in 1922 with funding from steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie, has plenty of Old World charm, even without the long planter boxes that once graced the windows.

The window boxes haven't been part of the building's facade in decades. But soon that will change, thanks to the work of students at Global Concepts Charter School who spent several weeks constructing new boxes.

Four new boxes - each six feet long, a foot wide and made of white pine - are scheduled to be installed on Wednesday and filled with petunias, geraniums and other varieties of flowers.

Six students from grades four to six were putting the finishing touches on the boxes this week inside the school's shop class.

"I think it will look a lot nicer and more historical, because it is an old building," said Haley Costlow, 11, taking a break from sanding. "I wanted to do something for the community because I've never actually done something like that."

The project developed last year from a conversation between Global Concepts teacher Danielle Huber and Michael Sobaszek, executive director of the Lackawanna Chamber of Commerce who is also a library trustee.

"We were talking about the history of Lackawanna and the different buildings and how things have changed over time," recalled Huber.

Sobaszek mentioned that the trustees were looking for a way to bring back the boxes and restore the original look of the historic building.

Huber checked with an assistant principal at the school to see if she might offer an after-school program to build the boxes and teach students about some of the history of Lackawanna and its architecture.

Technology teacher Dave Reimers, a cabinetmaker, signed on to oversee the construction.

Reimers designed the boxes and decorative brackets from old photographs of the library.

Students then got the chance to use power tools such as miter saws, orbital sanders and drills to put the boxes together.

Fifth-grader Kayla Andrews, 10, was more than happy to get her hands dirty to help out the library, where she spends a lot of time.

"I build a lot of things, like bird houses and stuff," she said. "And I helped my uncle build a deck before."

Huber, a history buff who was part of a group that had tried to save the old Bethlehem Steel Administration Building from being demolished this spring, said she was happy to help students contribute to the upkeep of one of Lackawanna's most charming structures.

With library funds tight and other projects more pressing, the window boxes likely would not have been restored without the work of the students, said library director Jennifer Johnston, who was thrilled to be getting the boxes back.

"Every time they pass by the library they can say, 'I built that, I worked on that,'‚ÄČ" said Johnston.